Thursday, April 17, 2008

I saw something on the teevee last night that really struck a chord. And so I'm going to post about it because I like to pretend that enough people read my blog to change the world. Ahem.

This isn't going to be pretty. Adult themes and all that. So read on at your own risk.

What I saw was a news story about the Pope's visit to the US, and the reactions of Catholics in the wake of the Priest Sexual Abuse Scandal. They interviewed the parents of a now grown woman who was repeatedly raped as a child by the family priest. The father was sobbing as he talked about this priest raping his five year old daughter. I don't even have to tell you what that does to me inside. Suffice to say I sobbed with him.

Then the father said that he had tremendous guilt, because he felt like the reason his daughter never told them what was happening was because of something he said to her once. He told her that if anyone ever hurt her, he would kill them. Kids are so literal. And so to protect her father from that monsterous response, and the fallout from what she thought was going to be an actual murder, she kept her secret for decades.

I felt sort of like I had been struck by an arrow. Because I remember distinctly sitting on the bed in my grandmother's bedroom when she told me the same thing. I was probably 10 years old. Old enough to know that there would never be bloodshed at the hands of my then 70 year old grandma. But still. It was obvious to 10 year old me that whatever evil lay in wait for me, it couldn't hurt me as much as it would hurt her. And as I have a lifelong habit of protecting the women in my life to any extent possilbe, I made a concious decision to keep any and all painful news from my grandmother. Forever. At any price. (I was so drama at 10 years old...)

I have never had anything as horrific as what happened to that young girl happen to me. Not even close. So I can't really say that I would have kept my secrets like she did. But I know that conversation affected me profoundly. So last night I thought a lot about how to convey the same meaning - that I am passionately driven to protect my children - without scaring the crap out of them.

Sweet Pea and I already talk about things that I hope and pray will protect her from predatory adults as she grows up. She knows that she, and she alone, is the boss of her body. We talk about our bodies and use all the right words. We try to keep nakedness and sexuality (age appropriate of course) from being taboo in our house. She is never forced to give a kiss or a hug if she doesn't want to. We talk about the difference between secrets and surprises. And how no one should EVER ask you to keep a secret from your Mommy and Daddy.

And now we're going to add to that list a conversation about how it's Mom and Dad's job to protect her and keep her safe. And how we LOVE our job. And the part about how we would kill any $#@*ing bastard who tried to lay a hand on her will have to remain between me and Mr. G.

Just thought I'd share.



Anonymous said...

I watched an excruciating documentary on the same subject (netflix issue - I am sometimes so intellectual while ordering my queue but really so pedestrian when I sit down in front of a television) and I wondered was I so unattractive, not one priest ever tried to molest me. Well, Father Wilson did like to hug me a lot. Ew.


Pass The Butter said...

Add to the list of things you don't think about when you're all waddley and pregnant, strolling through Baby Gap thinking about how cute and magical and snuggly it will be to be a parent: 1. The fact that you have to find a way to explain the dark horrible underbelly of the world without being a total buzzkill and/or turning your kid completely phobic. How to teach a 3-year-old about the delicate balance between being open to trying new things while still guarding oneself against unforeseen badness? It is mystifying, and overwhelming. I am inspired by your courage. Guess all we can do is fight the good fight.

beege said...

I admire your courage. We haven't had these talks with Linnea, mostly because I don't know how to broach the topic. My mother? Had me TERRIFIED of everything, and everyone. I don't want to do that to Linnea--she's so gorgeous and open and loving and friendly. But it's precisely because of that, that I need to teach her that not everyone will use that carefully.

You just don't like to think that there will ever be a time when you won't be there to do verbal or physical battle to protect them...but chit. Our girls are 4. Nea already spends most of the day apart from me. *sigh*

Yeah. Baby Gap daydreams these aren't.

Clover said...

Having Scarlett as a SIL has helped me tremendously over the years. She is an elementary school counselor and chock full of answers to parenting freakout questions. Basically she told me once long ago just to watch my kids like a hawk. Okeydokey.